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Wisconsin Awarded $100,000 Grant

By Portage County Business Council

Supporting programs for innovative, technology-driven small businesses under SBA’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) partnership program, the U.S. Small Business Administration has granted a $100,000 award to the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network program at the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The FAST Program is designed to stimulate economic development among small high technology businesses through federally-funded research and development programs like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR).

The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network (WEN) is taking this grant opportunity one step further by creating a statewide Innovation-25 (I-25) pilot program. I-25 companies will receive specific business counseling services to enhance their ability to apply for federal SBIR and STTR grants. The companies in this pilot program represent areas that the SBA Office of Technology is interested in strengthening and furthering in the current economy. They include defense, advanced manufacturing, environmental solutions, information technology, energy management, life sciences and medical devices.

Prospective I-25 companies represent both startups and existing businesses that are focused on technology creation and innovation. Pushing their ideas forward is risky and costly but is a driving force for creating company startups, new market opportunities and job growth for Wisconsin. The I-25 pilot is designed to minimize business risk by providing intensive hands-on assistance to these companies. This allows them to be more focused and competitive in applying for federal funding for research.

Pat Dillon, WEN business counselor and I-25 program manager, recently announced the first round of companies that will be participating. “We are extremely pleased with the response so far,” she said. “Although our initial call for nominations focused on only 25 businesses, we are increasing the pool to accommodate the high level of interest.”

I-25 companies will progress through two stages to complete the program. Stage one focuses on product and market development and includes a customized, comprehensive project plan. The business will be counseled on how to leverage its access to existing resources and capabilities within Wisconsin and beyond to increase chances of funding success. The project plan will result in a technology development and commercialization road map focused on the investigation of the idea or concept.

In stage two, WEN business counselors will prepare the individual businesses to submit an SBIR/STTR research proposal. Through this I-25 pilot and with the assistance of WEN’s public and private partners, it is expected that several business technology proposals will be selected for federal funding, which could conservatively generate $2 million within 18 months.

I-25 will continue to accept online applications for businesses that would like to be part of the pilot. The deadline to apply is May 31, 2011. Applicants include innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and existing companies that meet the necessary criteria as outlined on

The FAST program is an important catalyst for helping America’s cutting-edge entrepreneurs continue to drive innovation and create good jobs, said Karen G. Mills, SBA administrator. “The partnerships developed through these programs will play a critical role in helping high-growth potential small firms take those next steps to help drive our local economies.”

Enhancing awareness of federal funding opportunities for Wisconsin businesses, Pat Dillon also was instrumental in bringing the national SBIR/STTR conference to Madison April 10 to 13, 2011, at Monona Terrace. This conference, “Growing the Innovation Ecosystem” will host many of the government agencies authorizing federal research funds. The conference is expected to draw 850 entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, professors, students and economic developers, in addition to the government agencies. Details on this educational and informational conference are available at:

For more information, contact:

Cathy Sullivan, Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network, 608-263-7805

Pat Dillon, I-25 Program Manager, Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network, 715-836-5056

Dennis E. Byrne, SBA, 202-205-6567 



The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Government Contracting and Business Development re-initiated a program that expired in 2005. The Federal and State Technology (FAST) partnership program was recently established again in Congress in 2010 to improve the participation of small technology firms in the innovation and commercialization of new technology; thereby ensuring that the United States remains on the cutting edge of research and development in the highly competitive area of science and technology.


The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network has six regional directors with more than 75 years of relevant business development and technology commercialization experience with concentrated expertise in federal research and development funding, technology transfer, engineering and private and public funding. Working individually or collaboratively, the WEN regional directors are a critical source of expertise to guide and advise Wisconsin’s technology-based businesses. WEN provides entrepreneurs with access to a statewide network of resources and expertise, identifies high-potential entrepreneurs and helps move their businesses forward, facilitates collaboration between entrepreneurs and between organizations that assist entrepreneurs, and helps create and grow minority-owned businesses.


The Board of Regents at the University of Wisconsin is the fiduciary recipient of this grant on behalf of the UW-Extension. Across the state, the University of Wisconsin System supports maximum access for economic and small business development efforts through individual counseling and program support, access to knowledge, research, laboratory space, thought leaders and other resources. The UW provides support for the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Commerce; and support for the Wisconsin Small business Development Center network, in partnership with the federal U.S. Small Business Administration.